Alabama Tourism Department News June 24, 2014

  • Oprah-produced civil rights movie begins filming in Selma, Montgomery
  • Alabama Restaurant Week signup underway
  • Deadline for 2015 walking tours sign-up is June 30
  • 2015 Vacation Guide & Calendar of Event deadlines
  • Saw’s BBQ in Homewood #1 on Paula Deen magazine’s 10 best barbecue places
  • ‘Priceless and then some,’ ‘Antiques Roadshow’ expert says of Huntsville’s von Braun collection
  • City of Montgomery presented with “All-America City” award
  • ConventionSouth magazine names Huntsville to list
  • Variety  reports Tom Hiddleston to play country icon Hank Williams
  • Dianne Bentley goes zip lining in coastal Alabama
  • Natchez Trace Parkway is on list of 10Best / USA TODAY Readers’ Choice nominations
  • Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


Oprah-produced civil rights movie begins filming in Selma, Montgomery 

By Amber Sutton,, June 23

The streets of downtown Selma surrounding the Edmund Pettus Bridge closed today as filming began for the production of Paramount Pictures’ “Selma” movie. 

“Selma,” which will film in the titular city through Thursday, stars David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and it culminates with the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march that eventually led President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

While most filming will take place in Atlanta, Ga., several scenes from the movie will be shot in Alabama, such as the Selma-to-Montgomery march. In addition, filmmakers are scheduled to shoot a pivotal scene where King leads civil rights demonstrators down Dexter Avenue toward the Alabama State Capitol on Friday.

For locals, the filming made getting to downtown a little tricky, but most said they didn’t mind the inconvenience in exchange for shining a light on the city’s history.

“I’m just excited,” said Selma native Darryl Kelly. “I’m just glad that somebody is paying attention. We have a lot of history here. There are several things that need to change, but I’m glad the spotlight is back on Selma.”

“Selma” is directed by Ava DuVernay, and Oprah Winfrey as well as Brad Pitt serve as producers for the film. In addition, Winfrey announced on Sunday that she would play the supporting role of Anna Lee Cooper, a leader in the Civil Rights movement.

Rev. Kenneth Spry, a minister from South Carolina who visited Selma today as part of a Civil Rights tour with his youth group, said the filming prevented the group from getting to physically cross the bridge, but they were able to take photos from a distance.

“We wanted to march across the bridge, but they’re not letting us get close to it all,” Spry said. “It’s been a pretty closed set ’cause Oprah’s in town, but we are going to get a picture of the bridge, and then we’ll load up the bus.”

Overall, about 500 locals were cast as extras to take part in scenes filmed in Selma and Montgomery this week.

The filming serves as a rare chance for Alabama residents to see what the making of a major motion picture is like.

“I think really the most exciting part is just seeing what goes into making movies,” said Will Atkinson, who was cast as a military police extra. “I enjoy watching them, and it’d be cool to be in the movie, but I mostly just want to

see what the process I like.”

Selma will play in limited theaters on Christmas Day before its nationwide release on Jan. 9, 2015.

To read this article online, go to:

Alabama Restaurant Week signup underway

The call for restaurants to participate in Alabama Restaurant Week is going well with 48 restaurants signed up as of today (June 24).

The Alabama Tourism Department is looking for additional restaurants to participate.  “This is great exposure for restaurants in Alabama,” said Grey Brennan, Regional Director for Alabama Tourism Department, “I’d ask that CVBs, Chambers of Commerce and other parties forward this notice to restaurants in Alabama that should participate.”

This year’s 10-day event is set for Friday August 15 through Monday August 24, 2014.

There is no cost to the restaurant or to their customers.

Sign up is quick and easy. Restaurants can sign up at If you signed up last year, first email or call Grey Brennan, 334-242-4459, to see if your last year’s information is still in our database.  It will save you time.

The Alabama Restaurant Week set price multi–course meal(s) of $10, $20 and $30 for dinner and $5, $10 and $15 for lunch excludes tax, tip and drink.

A restaurant may participate in all three preset prices for both lunch or dinner, or just one or any combination.  A restaurant does not have to participate in both lunch and dinner.

Each restaurant must enter their fixed price meal offering by the deadline of July 15.

To qualify for participation, a restaurant must be locally owned and operated and/or a restaurant important to the tourism industry and located in Alabama.  Most chain restaurants do not quality. Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right to include or deny any restaurant.

For more information, go to  and or contact, 334-242-4459.

Alabama Restaurant Week is a marketing event that highlights restaurants in Alabama and is part of the overall Alabama Tourism Department’s Alabama Food campaign.

Deadline for 2015 walking tours sign-up is June 30

Town interested in participating in the 2015 April Walking Tours should respond with an email giving their town’s name, starting location, contact person and shipping address to

A record 1,900 people participated in the walking tours this spring with some 32 towns across the state hosting the tours. The hour long tours started at 10:00 a.m. each Saturday morning in April.  Dates for the 2015 April Walking

Tours are April 4, 11, 18 and 25.

Towns that have already signed-up for 2015 include Athens, Birmingham, Brundidge, Columbia, Columbiana, Decatur, Dothan, Elba, Fairhope, Greensboro, Huntsville, Madison, Montgomery, Mooresville, Phenix City, Selma, Sheffield, Troy and Tuscumbia.

The deadline to sign-up for the walking tours is June 30.

2015 Vacation Guide & Calendar of Event deadlines

We are now working on the 2015 Official Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events. To provide our visitors with the most reliable and comprehensive information about your attractions, businesses and important events we ask that you update your listing(s) on the industry partner website:

Please note, that although the printed version of the Vacation Guide and Calendar of Events are now one publication, they are still produced separately and have different deadlines.

Please get your information for the Calendar of Events in by June 30, and your Vacation Guide listings by July 9.

For information about either publication or updating your listing, contact:

Pam Smith at or 334-353-4541.

Saw’s BBQ in Homewood #1 on Paula Deen magazine’s 10 best barbecue places in America

By Bob Carlton,, June 19

Saw’s BBQ is No. 1 with Paula Deen, y’all.  The popular Homewood barbecue joint tops the list of “The Best Barbecue across America” that appears in the July-August issue of Cooking with Paula Deen magazine, which is available on newsstands now.

Saw’s BBQ founder Mike Wilson said Wednesday afternoon he was pleasantly surprised when he learned his place was first on Deen’s list.

“To be named No. 1 in something like that is kind of what you do it for,” Wilson said. “I couldn’t believe it at first. It pays off, all of your hard work.”

Here’s what Deen’s magazine had to say about Saw’s BBQ:

“The focus of Saw’s BBQ is simple – good ole Southern soul food. Pioneered by Mike Wilson, Saw’s has taken Birmingham by a smoky storm. First opening in the residential area of Homewood, the venue has expanded to three locations where they serve classic pulled pork, chicken smothered in a distinctive white sauce, and barbecue-topped baked potatoes. Dubbed an ‘upscale dive,’ this barbecue joint is one both family and friends will enjoy.”

Since opening the original Saw’s BBQ in Homewood’s Edgewood neighborhood in 2009, Wilson has teamed with other partners to open two more Saw’s locations in Birmingham – Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale and Saw’s Juke Joint in Crestline Park – and this spring, he started a Saw’s Street Kitchen food truck.

Last summer, Parade magazine included Saw’s Soul Kitchen on its list of the 17 top new barbecue places in America.

Cooking with Paula Deen is published by Hoffman Media, which is based in Birmingham.  Deen, the Savannah, Ga., celebrity chef and cookbook author, is the magazine’s editor-in-chief.

For Cooking with Paula Deen magazine’s Top 10 list and to read the article online, go to:

‘Priceless and then some,’ ‘Antiques Roadshow’ expert says of Huntsville’s von Braun collection 

By Bob Carlton,, June 21

A collection of NASA pioneer Wernher von Braun’s personal effects – including the notes he wrote in his desk calendars during the Apollo 11 and 13 space flights – is “priceless and then some,” according to an “Antiques Roadshow” appraiser who viewed the collection at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex on Saturday.

The von Braun collection is in the archives of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, where the German rocket scientist came following World War II and later developed the Saturn V launch vehicle that sent America to the moon.

Appraisal expert James Supp of Tucson, Ariz., who said he always had an intense interest in the space program, said it is almost impossible to put a price on the value of the von Braun collection.

“There is no way to be sure because it never comes up for auction,” Supp said. “This kind of stuff, it is part of history. It is very difficult to value because there are no real comparables for any of it.

“I mean, this is one of the most important moments of American (and) world history, all boiled down to one of the primary movers and shakers (von Braun). It’s a tough thing to value.”

Supp and about 70 to 80 other “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal experts were in Birmingham Saturday to tape three episodes of the show that will appear on PBS when the new season starts next year.

Deborah Barnhart, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, along with other representatives from the center, brought the von Braun personal effects to Saturday’s appraisal event not so much to get an evaluation of their worth, she said, but to make more people aware of Huntsville’s role in America’s space history.

“We took man to the moon from Alabama,” she said. “These are some of the most important papers in the nation’s history here in Huntsville.”

All of the papers were carefully boxed and handled with museum gloves to keep them from getting smudged.

The collection included von Braun’s notebooks from when he was 12 and 16 years old and already sketching rocket ships; his doctoral dissertation; his pocket slide rule; personal photographs; a framed letter from President Dwight D. Eisenhower; and a copy of the book “First On the Moon” signed and personalized to von Braun by all three Apollo 11 astronauts.

“Guesstimate on this one?” Supp said of the book. “I would have to talk to the book guys (appraisers), but $12,000 to $15,000 to $20,000, somewhere in there. It’s that big of a range.”

Typically, a pocket slide rule from the 1950s would be worth about $20 to $30, Supp said.

“Not a big deal,” he said. “But (one) owned by Wernher von Braun, the pioneer of the rocket age, one of the biggest names in American science? For insurance purposes, probably around $2,000.”

The Holy Grail for Supp, though, were the two desk calendars — one from the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 and the other from the aborted Apollo 13 flight a year later.

In the one from Apollo 11, von Braun had penciled in “touchdown, lunar surface” inside the box for July 20, 1969.

In the one from Apollo 13, he had erased his notes and left the boxes blank in the days following an on-board explosion on April 13, 1970, that caused the astronauts to abort their mission. His notes resume after they safely returned to Earth on April 17.

Supp started to tear up after he looked at von Braun’s notes.

“We’ve got two of the most iconic moments in human history . . . the times we reached the moon,” he said. “How amazing.

“Reasonably speaking?” he added. “Priceless and then some.”

If he had to put a price on the desk calendars, though, Supp said he “would not be uncomfortable with $30,000 each.” But that’s only a guess, he added.

The von Braun effects were left to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center after he died in 1977, and none of them are for sale at any price, Barnhart said.

Now, though, she is going to be even more careful with them.

“I guess we’d better lock the car on the way home, huh?” she said.

To read this article online, go to:

City of Montgomery presented with “All-America City” award

WSFA 12 News, June 17

The City of Montgomery is being presented the award for “All-America City” by the National Civic League, Tuesday evening after competing last week against cities across the country for the honor.

The winning delegation presented the award to Mayor Todd Strange and city officials at the scheduled city council meeting.

The team is also to perform a portion of their presentation from the competition. In all, 23 finalist cities competed for the title, which is given to only 10 cities a year.

The award recognizes communities for successfully addressing pressing challenges such as housing. government innovation, job development, educational improvement and neighborhood and commercial revitalization.

“This distinction is another jewel in the crown for Montgomery, and it’s indicative of the energy and enthusiasm surrounding our city.” Mayor Todd Strange says.  “We earned this distinction thanks to the dedication of our citizens and amazing health and wellness initiatives that provide much needed services to our neighbors.”

The delegations presentation included the city’s work through the Obesity Task Force, the Eat South Organization, and the River Region Health Clinic.

To see the video, go to:

ConventionSouth magazine names Huntsville to list

By Lucy Berry,, June 18

Which Alabama city made ConventionSouth magazine’s new 2014 list of the best “Southern Hospitality Cities”?

Huntsville, known for its technology, space and defense industries, was one of 16 cities in the U.S. South handpicked by ConventionSouth’s editors using reader, fan and follower nominations. The magazine also looked at cities that offer a:

• attractive, clean, safe and welcoming community

• charming, authentic and unique attractions, restaurants, shopping and recreation

• community-wide service standards with polite hospitality workers

• helpful Convention and Visitors Bureau with group travel and event planning services

For a city to make the list, ConventionSouth Editor/Associate Publisher Marlane Bundock said the “community as a whole must possess several defining qualities that collectively present an all-around welcoming spirit toward visitors.”

“These qualities include a genuinely cordial state-of-mind of the residents that cooperatively becomes a community-wide state-of-being,” she said. “This is further enhanced by a charming appearance and unique attractions such as one-of-a-kind restaurants—whether they are fine-dining establishments or greasy spoons.

Meeting planners from across the country require destinations that meet these standards and therefore, look to the South over other regions in order hold more successful, memorable events.”

To see the list of cities and read the article online, go to:

Variety reports Tom Hiddleston to play country icon Hank Williams

By Dave McNary, Variety, June 12

“The Avengers” star Tom Hiddleston will play Hank Williams — and sing the country music icon’s songs — in the independent biopic “I Saw the Light.”

Veteran producer Marc Abraham will direct from his own script, which is based on the 1994 book “Hank Williams: The Biography” by Colin Escott, George Merritt and William MacEwen.

Producers have obtained rights from Sony ATV for Williams’ songs, including “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “I”m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Hey Good Lookin’.”

Williams was born in 1923 in Alabama and broke out in the post-World War II era with the song “Move It on Over.” Among his hits are “Lost Highway,” “Jumbalaya (on the Bayou),” “Ramblin’ Man,” “You Win Again” and “Lovesick Blues.”

He suffered from spina bifida and died at age 29 of heart failure after struggling with alcoholism and addiction to prescription pills.

Hiddleston is best known for his playing Loki in the Marvel movies “Thor,” “The Avengers” and “Thor: The Dark World.” Other credits include “Midnight in Paris” and “War Horse.”

To see this article online, go to:

Dianne Bentley goes zip lining in coastal Alabama

By Associated Press, The Washington Times, June 23

Alabama’s first lady promoted state parks during a zip lining trip in coastal Alabama.

Dianne Bentley visited the Gulf Adventure Center at Gulf State Park Monday as part of the “Mrs. Bentley’s Bucket List,” tour.

Bentley’s bucket list involves a series of visits to nine Alabama state parks aimed boosting tourism.

To read the article online, go to:

Mrs. Bentley is promoting Alabama State Parks during the Department of Tourism’s Year of Alabama Parks. In March, she unveiled “Mrs. Bentley’s Bucket List,” which lists activities and sights to see at nine of Alabama’s 22 state parks. During the visit to Gulf State Park, Mrs. Bentley will go zip lining at the Gulf Adventure Center.  More information about Mrs. Bentley’s Bucket List can be found at

Natchez Trace Parkway is on list of 10Best / USA TODAY Readers’ Choice nominations

The nominees for Best Motorcycle Trip have been announced and Natchez Trace Parkway is one of 20 finalists competing for a spot in the winners list.

Natchez Trace Parkway would appreciate the support of Alabama during its campaign to win.

Voting is open and ends Mon., July 21, 10:59 a.m.  For the complete list of nominees and to vote, go to:  and feel free to share the contest URL with your social network.  The public can vote once per day, per category.

To follow live voting action (and discover the most active campaigns for award categories), search #10BestChoice on Twitter (we are @10Best).  You can also find us on Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.

Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Early Bird Registration ($350) ends June 30, at midnight.  RegOnLine automatically increases the fee to $450 at midnight.  This registration fee increase is nonnegotiable.

The Hotel at Auburn University’s $125 reservation price goes up on July 7.  The rooms are going fast.

If you are coming to the AGCT, register ASAP.  You don’t want to pay more for procrastination or not be able to stay at the host hotel.

Alabama Tourism is still accepting nominations for outstanding tourism professionals who go above and beyond to promote Alabama.  Categories are: Hall of Fame, Tourism Government Advocate, Tourism Media Advocate, Rising Star, Event of the Year, Professional of the Year, Employee of the Year, Governor’s Tourism Award, Organization of the Year, Tourism Partnership Award, Welcome Center of the Year, Attraction of the Year, and Themed Campaigns.

Please send written nominations to Cynthia Flowers, Alabama Tourism Department, P.O. Box 4927, Montgomery, AL  36103.

Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

July 19-22                   Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Auburn

Sept. 7-14                   World Leisure Congress, Mobile


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